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Week 3 top performers: McCarron overcomes A&M, perception

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South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw looks for a receiver in the Gamecocks' game against Georgia. (Source: South Carolina Athletics) South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw looks for a receiver in the Gamecocks' game against Georgia. (Source: South Carolina Athletics)
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall drops back to pass. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall drops back to pass. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
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(RNN) – Here's a weekly look at five of the SEC's top performers in Week 3 and who to watch in Week 4.

Week 3 top performers:

1 AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama – In a game full of great performances, McCarron was steady and flawless on his way to a career-high 334 passing yards and four touchdowns, which earned him the SEC's offensive player of the week. He was also named the national player of the week by Athlon Sports following Alabama's 49-42 win over Texas A&M.

After struggling in the season opener against Virginia Tech, McCarron rebounded in the SEC opener for the Crimson Tide (2-0, 1-0) and turned in the kind of game he's become famous for. McCarron threw deep only one time - a 44-yard touchdown strike to DeAndrew White off a flea-flicker - but spread 20 completions to 10 receivers, and each of his touchdowns went to a different player.

McCarron was never sacked, threw no interceptions and was also credited by head coach Nick Saban for suggesting the play for Alabama's last touchdown, a 5-yard pass to running back Jalston Fowler off play-action that gave Alabama a 14-point lead with 2:28 to play.

The performance did wonders for the perception that McCarron is nothing more than a game manager and has had several pundits praise his poise and decision making while discussing him as a serious candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

2. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M – Johnny Manziel had a career-high 464 passing yards and rushed for 98 more and more than deserves to be included on this list. In fact, all five top performers from Week 3 could come from Alabama and Texas A&M after their epic game Saturday. But Evans is getting the nod because Manziel is discussed every week and more than half of his passing yards against the Crimson Tide went to Evans.

Evans is 6-foot-5, 225 pounds and creates matchup problems for every team the Aggies (2-1, 0-1) play. That was certainly the case against Alabama when Evans grabbed a game-high seven catches for 279 yards, including a 95-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that got A&M within one score of Alabama, which had at one point led by 21.

Most of Evans' yards, including the 95-yard score, came after he beat cornerback Cyrus Jones' one-on-one coverage and streaked down the sideline. Jones is listed as 5-foot-10, 196 pounds and was behind Evans by a yard or two on those plays. But on the touchdown strike, Evans gave a stiff-arm to keep Jones at bay and avoided a diving tackle by safety Vinnie Sunseri before reaching the end zone.

3. Jeff Scott, RB, Ole Miss – Scott took advantage of Texas' paltry rushing defense and gained 164 yards on 19 carries with one touchdown. He also returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter that gave the Rebels (3-0, 1-0) the lead for good in their 44-23 win.

The return helped Scott finish with a career-high 243 all-purpose yards and earned him the SEC's special teams player of the week award. His 164 rushing yards also were a career-best.

Scott has been the star for the Rebels so far this season and he's averaging 110 yards per game on the ground, which ranks him 29th nationally and fifth in the SEC.

4. Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina – Shaw continues to improve and distance himself from backup quarterback Dylan Thompson, who still plays a couple of series a game for the Gamecocks (2-1, 1-1). In a 35-25 win over Vanderbilt last week, Shaw passed for 284 yards and three touchdowns and was South Carolina's leading rusher with 84 yards.

The Gamecocks have a favorable schedule over their next five games and don't play another ranked opponent until Florida on Nov. 16.

5. Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas – Collins is perhaps the best newcomer to the SEC this season. He picked up 115 yards and a touchdown in a 24-3 win over Southern Mississippi, and it actually lowered his average yards per game.

Collins, a freshman, is averaging 139 yards per game, which is eighth in the country and second in the SEC. Arkansas hasn't had a consistent running game for a few years, but the Razorbacks (3-0) haven't played any tough opponents yet this season. That is soon to change with four consecutive games against ranked teams looming, starting with Texas A&M on Sept. 28.

Who to watch in Week 4:

1. Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn – Marshall has thrown for 585 yards and four touchdowns in three games for the Tigers (3-0, 1-0), but he'll face his toughest opponent so far this week against LSU. It is also Auburn's first road game.

Gus Malzahn has turned Auburn's offense around in almost no time at all, but it has yet to be fully tested. Auburn's running game should be fine with Tre Mason and Corey Grant shouldering the burden, but it struggled against Mississippi State last week. Without balance either way, LSU's defense will prove difficult to tame.

Against Mississippi State last week, Marshall threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had two interceptions. He guided the Tigers on a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter, capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah.

Marshall had thrown for fewer yards in Auburn's first two games combined, and whether the Tigers' offense can hold up against better teams remains to be seen.

2. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU – The much-maligned LSU signal-caller has quietly been having a stellar year. Mettenberger has thrown for 797 yards and nine touchdowns with no interceptions and is drawing mentions in the Heisman Trophy discussion.

The best team LSU (3-0) has played so far is TCU, which is now 1-2 and no longer ranked. Auburn's defense is not among the best LSU will face, but it will be a nice tune-up for Georgia, who the Tigers play Sept. 28.

Mettenberger is currently 21st in the nation in passing yards and second in the SEC, behind only Johnny Manziel. He's first in the conference and third nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 205.3, and he is tied for sixth in the nation in passing touchdowns.

3. Mack Brown, RB, Florida – The Gators (1-1) have had two weeks to move past their loss to Miami, and get their offense back in a groove. Quarterback Jeff Driskel is the undisputed leader of the team, but Brown is an important cog in Florida's rushing machine.

This week's game against Tennessee opens conference play for Florida and is the first of three conference games the Gators should have no trouble winning. But if Florida moves away from its rushing attack, it could run into several problems.

Florida is built to run and play ball control, and Brown shouldering the load is a must for the offense to work properly.

4. Justin Worley, QB, Tennessee – Getting the Gators out of their comfort zone is the best way to beat them, and the best way to do that is to score points against their defense. Worley didn't have any success in that area against Oregon last week.

Florida is an entirely different opponent, and won't be looking for a shootout like the Ducks are known for. If Worley can move the ball against Florida's defense consistently, it could cause the Gators to move away from their running game.

Tennessee (2-1) had no problem dispatching Western Kentucky and Austin Peay, but Worley wasn't asked to do much in those games. He didn't do much against Oregon last week, either, throwing for 126 yards and a touchdown despite 13 possessions.

5. Tyler Russell/Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State – Tyler Russell had been expected to start last week against Auburn, but he remained sidelined after suffering a concussion in the season opener against Oklahoma State.

Russell threw for 133 yards before leaving that game. Prescott took over and has thrown for 476 yards and two touchdowns against Alcorn State and Auburn, and is the team's leading rusher with 162 yards and three touchdowns.

The Bulldogs (1-2, 0-1) struggled against Troy last season in a 30-24 win, and a loss to the Trojans this week would be a huge blow. Russell and Prescott each play a different style of football. Russell is a better passer and isn't known for his running, while Prescott has led an option attack that had some success against Auburn, but also struggled at times.

The Bulldogs are struggling to find an identity and consistency at quarterback will go a long way to helping form one.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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